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By Stephen Garrard Post, Visit Amazon's Lynn G. Underwood Page, search results, Learn about Author Central, Lynn G. Underwood, , Jeffrey Schloss, William B. Hurlbut

(Publisher-supplied information) the concept that of altruism, or disinterested drawback for another's welfare, has been mentioned through everybody from theologians to psychologists to biologists. during this ebook, evolutionary, neurological, developmental, mental, social, cultural, and non secular facets of altruistic habit are tested. it's a collaborative exam of 1 of humanity's crucial and defining Read more...


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Moral principles are general and impersonal in what they say. They do not mention self or specific others but describe what anyone in a generally characterized situation is permitted or obliged to do. Even if altruistic desires ex-     27 isted before modern humans evolved, I suspect that abstract moral principles are a uniquely human achievement. Most of us recognize this distinction between the specific desires we have and the general moral principles we accept when we compare catastrophes that happen to those who are near and dear with similar catastrophes that happen far away to people we do not know.

It is not my aim to contest the demonstrable utility of genetically coded information in the context of evolutionary biology but rather to show that the Pythagorean body differs from the sensate body that feels pain and suffering and that is required by alterity-altruism. As Holmes Rolston III has pointed out in one of his Gifford Lectures, “Genes are no more capable of sharing than of being selfish . . where ‘sharing’ and ‘selfish’ have their deliberated, moral meaning” (1999, p. 49). To attribute either altruism or selfishness to genes is to see them as moral agents rather than transmitters of information.

If general ethical principles and specific altruistic desires are distinct in the way I have suggested, why do human beings have them both? Or, to give this question a temporal dimension, if specific altruistic desires were part of the human phenotype before general ethical principles came along, why did the latter become part of that phenotype? One possible explanation is the social function that moral principles serve. Moral principles are devices for encouraging group-beneficial desires and behaviors.

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